15 PhD positions offered by the Graduate School LSE under the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Programme (MSCA) COFUND project

The program “Interdisciplinary and intersectoral doctoral training programme at Technische Universität Darmstadt in Life Science Engineering” – trainLSE – aims to establish interdisciplinary research and training of excellent international young researchers at the interface between engineering and life sciences. trainLSE is integrated into the existing PhD program of the Graduate School Life Science Engineering (GS LSE) at TU Darmstadt. PhD candidates will become a member of the LSE community and benefit from the structured doctoral training.

A total of 15 doctoral students are able to combine expertise from the engineering and life sciences in their own unique way, and develop a new constructive engineering way of considering biology.

The MSCA-COFUND doctoral program not only provides research training in the fields of biology, chemistry, materials science, electrical engineering, physics, and mechanical engineering, but also prepares you for your future career in academia and industry and offers the opportunity of research internships in renowned partner research institutions, universities or companies in different countries.

PhD candidates participating in the COFUND program benefit from:

  • EU co-funded PhD position for 48 months
  • Interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of life science and engineering
  • Mobility grant for a research internship in renowned partner institutions, universities and companies
  • Participation in national and international conferences
  • Training sessions for transferable skills
  • Annual retreat of the of Graduate School LSE
  • International, open minded and vibrant community

Please carefully review the following details of the PhD program before submitting your application.

  1. Please note, applications are exclusively accepted via the online application form.
  1. To apply for the trainLSE program, applicants must not be in possession of a doctoral degree and hold an excellent M.Sc. with a strong background in life science or engineering disciplines. Applicants can apply even if they receive their Master's degree after the application deadline, as long as they have their Master's degree by the start of the PhD program.
  • Molecular biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Material Science
  • Computer Science
  • Micro- and Nanotechnology
  1. trainLSE is an international PhD program. Applicants should not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Germany for more than 12 months in the 36 months before the call deadline of the program, unless this time was part of a compulsory national service or a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention. These mobility rule also applies for German citizens.
  1. Required documents include your CV, a motivation statement, transcript and degree certificates (Bachelor and Master), proof of English language proficiency, and at least two letters of recommendation. All documents must be provided as pdf.
  1. Applicants are highly encouraged to submit their own research proposal with an abstract of up to two pages describing the concept, research methods and relevance of the topic. The research project should align with your personal research interests, but not necessarily with the specific research topics of your chosen group leaders. The primary objective is to demonstrate your scientific aptitude through your ability to develop concepts, select appropriate research methods, and apply relevant background knowledge to your project.
  1. You will also be asked to nominate a minimum of three research group leaders whose work aligns with your interests, along with a brief justification. Information about the group leaders and their research can be found below.

Recruiting research group leaders

Human 3D tissues generated from stem or progenitor cells in the laboratory provide versatile in vitro models for drug development and toxicology assessment, and hold great promise for regenerative medicine. They have the potential to reduce animal testing and to serve as an alternative to donated human tissues/organs. However, a routine application of such 3D tissues is hindered by several limitations. We are working to overcome critical shortcomings of current human stem cell-based tissue models. To improve the spatial development of stem cells in 3D cultures, we are applying gradients of biomolecules acting on morphogenetic pathways and are working on the development of vascular systems for organ-like 3D cell cultures. Methodologies in our projects include culture and genetic engineering of human stem and progenitor cells, immunofluorescence staining, fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, development and application of fluidic devices & hydrogel blends, and gene expression analyses. More information

The Kolmar group does research in the field of protein engineering. We discover antibodies against various cancer targets and shape them for potential therapeutic applications. To this end, we use chicken immunization and isolate antibodies by ultra high-throughput screening. A current focus is on the generation of multifunctional molecules that recruit immune cells to cancer cells and activate them to eradicate the tumor. For some projects, we closely collaborate with industrial partners from pharma or biotech industry. Applicants should have a strong interest in application-oriented research and have experimental experience in molecular biology, preferably protein production and characterization, and/or cell biology. A background in basic immunology would be helpful.

The research activities of the Ion-beam Modified Materials research group of the Materials Science Department at TU-Darmstadt include the fabrication of solid-state nanochannel biosensors by ion-track nanotechnology and surface functionalization. At the GSI Helmholtz Centre in Darmstadt, we irradiate polymer foils with an individual, high-energy, heavy ion. Subsequent chemical etching of the generated ion track yields single nanochannels with excellent control of pore geometry (e.g., cylindrical, conical, bullet-shaped) and size (diameter tunable between ~10 nm and a few µm). The carboxyl groups at the etched polymer surface facilitate the subsequent chemical functionalization of the channel surface. Functionalized solid-state nanochannels exhibit unique ion transport properties, including ion selectivity, ion current rectification, and responsive behavior to external stimuli such as pH value, temperature, or concentration of a specific ion. Inspired by the remarkable properties of nanopores in biological cell membranes, we focus on developing novel polymer nanochannels to understand their functionality and to design novel chemical- and biological nanochannel sensors.

In addition, the group has enormous expertise in synthesizing nanowire ensembles of various materials, including metals, semiconductors, and semimetals, by electrodeposition in multichannel polymer membranes. The assembly of nanowires and nanotubes into stable 3D architectures is essential for their implementation in thermoelectric, catalytic, photoelectrochemical, and biotechnological devices.

We are an interdisciplinary, dynamic team searching for new nanoporous materials, manufacturing and functionalization methods to push the limits of nanopore transport with benefits in the areas of water management, sensor technology, and synthetic biology.

To enable chemical information processing between synthetic or biological compartments we aim to integrate synthetic nanopores into multicompartment systems to control molecular transport in time, and thus to design chemical information exchange between compartments. Compartments can be a reaction space in a microfluidic lab-on-chip device, or a biological cell reacting to a specific molecule. To design signaling pathways between such compartments, time-dependent, precisely controlled concentration-time profiles of signaling molecules are required. These molecules then trigger a response in the neighboring compartment. The concentration-time profile design in nanopore transport requires a precise nanopore fabrication, nanopore functionalization, e.g. using polymers, and nanopore device integration. We develop functionalized nanoscale porous ceramic materials allowing temporally controlled molecular transport or release. We aim to interface such nanoporous materials with biological cells or chemical reactions and to integrate them into compartments of microfluidic devices. Exemplary key words are: sol-gel chemistry, stimuli-responsive polymer grafting from, light-triggered release, additive manufacturing, nanoscale polymer writing, cyclic voltammetry, ellipsometry, fluorescence microscopy, nanopore transport gating.

BioMedical Printing Technology is an interdisciplinary field of research, at the interface of engineering, biology and medicine. The aim of this field is the research and development of mechanisms, processes and demonstrators that contribute to regenerative/personalized medicine, to the enhancement of the quality of life of an aging society and to the biologization of technology.

Using functional and multidimensional printing techniques, gentle processing and symbiotic bonding of living organisms, functional materials and electrical components is enabled. One example is 3D bioprinting, in which living cells embedded in a high water content polymer matrix are 3D printed to build living tissue structures.

In our research we address different aspects of BioMedical Printing Technology, which can be transferred into a variety of applications. These include, for example:

  • Novel biosensors that can be used for efficient detection of antibiotic residues in food or for early detection of pathogens.
  • Bioprinted in vitro models, which offer an innovative leap for patient-specific drug development and represent a promising alternative to animal testing.
  • Bio-printed tissues used as implants in the field of regenerative medicine, which may alleviate the need for donor organs in the future.

In addition to the possible applications in the field of medicine described above, we are also investigating the application of BioMedical printing technology for the production of in vitro meat in a recently launched industrial project. The long-term goal of this work is the animal- and climate-friendly provision of an alternative, but purely biological meat substitute.

As you can see, the research field of BioMedical Printing Technology not only offers exciting medical solutions for an aging society, but also sustainable answers to the question of resource- and climate-friendly consumption. The institute is characterized by the symbiotic connection of living and technical matter, the application of cell-friendly manufacturing processes and a wide range of applications that extend across the fields of life science, regenerative medicine and the biologization of technology. More information

One focus of our research is how the mammalian genome is maintained through cell divisions and in response to endogenous and exogenous stress.

The genome contains all the information to build hundreds of different cells and entire organisms and has to be copied in every cell division. A single mistake could lead to tumor formation. Using live-cell and super-resolution techniques, we investigate the spatio-temporal dynamics and regulation of genome replication in cells at different developmental stages comparing e. g. (embryonic) stem cells and tumor cells.

In addition to all these challenges, our genome is constantly threatened by radiation like the UV light from the sun or mutagens from our food or environmental pollutants. We study how the cell recognizes the damage and how it organizes its repair. For this, we use a combination of genomically engineered cell lines, genome-wide sequencing approaches together with advanced light microscopy and image analysis.

Another focus of our research is to investigate how writers and readers DNA modifications control the packing of the over 2 meters of DNA into the tiny, micrometer-sized cell nucleus. We are investigating how DNA modifications affect chromatin compartmentalization and how that impacts on genome activity and stability and how it changes during cellular differentiation and reprogramming or in disease.

Enzymatically controlled radical polymerizations allow to synthesize polymers with cells that express the respective enzymes, thereby equipping the cells with synthetic polymers as biorthogonal building blocks, e.g. to stabilize the cells or to create synthetic compartments on or within the cells. The overarching goal of the project in the Bruns research group will be to engineer yeast and bacterial cells so that they can catalyze enzymatic radical polymerizations of synthetic monomers within cells. With this approach, block copolymers will be created in situ of complex biological environments, which will then self-assemble into synthetic compartments and artificial organelles to create compartmentalized reaction spaces in and on cells. Thus, the project combines polymer chemistry with the genetic engineering of whole-cell biocatalysts and the macromolecular engineering of block copolymer vesicles. It will not only result in the predictive understanding of how synthetic polymers can be used to augment whole-cell biocatalysts but also in methods to create reaction compartments for synthetic biology. More information

The focus of our research is to understand how cells sense and counteract stress that originates from the environment or intrinsic biological processes. Specifically, we aim to understand how the underlying signaling networks act dynamically in living cells and how they intersect with each other to control the physiological response of a cell. Cells within a population often react differently to the same stress, depending on their initial state. We therefore focus on the analysis of individual cells and investigate the common properties that unite them and the sources of variation that make them different. We employ automated time-lapse microscopy combined with statistical analysis and mathematical modeling to gain a predictive understanding of cellular stress responses.

The aim of the current project is to challenge our knowledge of signaling networks by developing synthetic circuits that allow computing in mammalian cells. Based on our understanding of the endogenous p53 stress response pathway, synthetic pulse generators will be devised and implemented experimentally to analyse the underlying design principles. The designs will then be modifed and extended to investigate robustness to molecular noise and to implement functions for computing, e.g. input filters, counters or timers.

The importance of synthetic RNAs has become apparent to everyone since the recent COVID pandemic when they were used as an effective vaccine. However, RNA molecules are capable of so much more than being a mere translation template for viral proteins. Similar to antibodies and enzymes they can form highly complex three-dimensional structures with which they can form catalytic centers or binding sites for specific ligands, such as small molecules or proteins. Unlike proteins, such RNAs can be found de novo using a n in vitro selection method called SELEX. These so-called aptamers can then be used as biosensors or further developed into genetic switching elements, so called synthetic riboswitches. With these, it is possible to control translation, alternative splicing or influence the stability of mRNAs in all domains of life, from bacteria to archaea, yeasts to human cells.

The main interest of our group lies in the structures they adopt and the structural changes that accompany their binding process. We then engineer these aptamers into riboswitches and subsequently transfer them to various model organisms. We work in a highly interdisciplinary environment with structural biologists to solve the three-dimensional structures of our aptamers, engineers who build sensory devices for our aptasensors and bioinformaticians to optimize our riboswitches. Many of our RNAs have found their way into practical application and research.

Are you a good fit for our aptamers? Then apply and make an impact with RNA!

The Hausch lab pursues novel drug modalities and drug discovery approaches at the interface between synthetic chemistry, biophysics and molecular biology. We pioneered inhibition of the FK506 binding protein 51 as a target for depression, obesity and chronic pain, incl. elucidating FKBP51s mode of action and development of the first selective ligands, macrocyclic inhibitors, and PROTACs. A second major focus are molecular glues to target otherwise undruggable proteins in a cell-type specific manner (‘smart’ drugs). Applicants should be curious and driven to advance therapeutic options, be broadly interested in drug discovery, and have a solid background in biochemistry, molecular biology or synthetic chemistry. They can expect top class research in an open multidisciplinary, international team, supplemented by industrial and academic collaborations.

The Koeppl lab performs wet-lab and dry-lab research in the domain of synthetic biology. Accordingly, the group is very interdisciplinary consisting of biologists, physicists, mathematicians and engineers and microtechnologists. In our own wet-lab we design and build synthetic gene circuits for applications in biosensing and therapeutics. We do genetic engineering of bacteria, yeast and mammalian cells and also run gene circuits in custom-made cell-free, transcription-translation systems. We aim to uncover general design principles for the robust functioning of gene circuits in noisy cellular environments. We build gene circuits within the paradigm of sense-compute-response, i.e. that new intelligent behavior inside cells can be realized by designing molecular sensing, computing and response modules and by composing them together in a controlled computer-aided way. Computational analysis and design accompanies every design step. We use and extend biophysical modeling and artificial intelligence techniques for the design of single molecular components (e.g. protein engineering) or of complete gene circuits (kinetic modeling). We provide world-class compute infrastructure and wet-lab facilities.


Applications are accepted until January 15, 2024 via the online application form. Applications sent via mail are not considered and do not undergo evaluation

Eligible applications are reviewed by an admission committee consisting of internal and external experts until January 31, 2024.

Selected candidates are invited to participate in virtual interviews scheduled for February 19-21, 2024.

Next, selected candidates are invited to attend an on-site recruitment event at TU Darmstadt on April 18-19, 2024 for personal interviews with the research group leaders. Travel and accommodations costs are covered by the Graduate School LSE.

The final selection of 15 PhD candidates will will be made following the personal interviews.

Official start of the trainLSE PhD program is October 2024. However, PhD students can start with their laboratory work between May and October 2024.

Virtual Interviews

The virtual interviews are scheduled for February 19-21, 2023, and will be conducted via Zoom. Invitations, complete with a fixed time slot and the Zoom link, will be sent to selected candidates in early February. During these interviews, each candidate will have the opportunity to introduce themselves and showcase their scientific accomplishments in a concise presentation lasting a maximum of 5 minutes. This presentation will be followed by a 5-minute Q&A session with the audience.

The purpose of these interviews is to provide research group leaders with an initial impression of your personality and your scientific knowledge, skills, and competencies. Please ensure that your presentation is well-prepared, as you will be stopped after the allotted 5 minutes

On-site recruitment event

Following the virtual interviews, the selected candidates will receive invitations to an on-site recruitment event in Darmstadt in April 18-19, 2024. These invitations will be sent out shortly after the virtual interviews, allowing you ample time to prepare for your trip to Germany. The Graduate School LSE will cover all travel and accommodations expenses.

The personal interviews at the on-site event will be conducted with the research group leaders and other members of the group, lasting approximately 30 minutes.

While in Darmstadt, you will have the opportunity to explore the TUDa campus, interact with the PhD Representatives of the Graduate School, and meet various members of the LSE community during a joint dinner.

In case applicants are unable attend the event in Darmstadt due to visa problems, illness, family issues, etc., the personal interviews will be conducted online.

Final Selection

The final selection of 15 PhD candidates that join the EU co-funded trainLSE PhD program will take place shortly after the on-site recruitment event. Candidates may start with their thesis from May to October. The trainLSE program officially starts on October 2024.

As a PhD student in the trainLSE programme, you will receive an employment contract from TUDa with co-funding from the EU for up to 4 years. Your gross salary is approx. 2670 EUR + 600 EUR mobility allowance per month, resulting in a net salary of approx. 2200 EUR per month. A family allowance of 600 EUR per month is paid for children cared for by the researcher, resulting in a net salary of about 2500 EUR per month. You have 30 days of vacation per year.